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Archive Report: Allied Forces

Compiled from official National Archive and Service sources, contemporary press reports, personal logbooks, diaries and correspondence, reference books, other sources, and interviews.


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18 Squadron Crest
30.04.1940 No. 18 Squadron Blenheim IV L8875 WV-S Sgt. Alfred W.S. Thomas

Operation: reconnaissance sortie 

Date: 30th April 1940

Unit: No. 18 Squadron

Type: Blenheim MkIV

Serial: L8875

Code: WV-S

Base: Méharicourt France

Location: Brussels-Evére Belgium

Pilot: Sgt. Alfred William Swinburne Thomas 562935 RAF Age 28. Interned

Obs: Sgt J.J.F. Talbot RAF Interned

Air/Gnr: Sgt. Ronald Godfrey St. James-Smith 551203 RAF Interned

REASON FOR LOSS: 

On 30th April 1940 he was on a reconnaissance sortie in Blenheim IV L8875 WV-S when their compass failed in a storm.

The pilot force-landed at Evere in Belgium and the crew, Sgt. Thomas, Sgt. Talbot and Sgt. James-Smith were interned. They were released after the Germans invaded Belgium on 10th May. 

Additional information:  Sgt. Ronald Godfrey St.James-Smith joined the RAF on 21st September 1936 as a Boy Entrant. He later re-mustered as an airman U/T Air Gunner and after completing his training posted to 18 Squadron as an LAC Air Gunner on Blenheims. The squadron was part of the Advanced Air Striking Force sent to France in September 1939. 

Back in action on 16th May the same crew had to force-land at Vitry in L8863 after being hit by ground fire. The pilot, Sgt. Alfred Thomas, got the aircraft down, despite a bullet passing through his neck and out through his jaw. Sadly although treated in hospital he died from his wounds two days later. Sgt. St.James-Smith was posted to 600 Squadron in September, where he qualified as a Battle of Britain airman, but rejoined 18 Squadron in late 1940. 

The following year on 13th April 1941, Blenheim IV L9247 WV-L had taken off from RAF Oulton in Norfolk at 10:51 hrs. The aircraft was last seen at 12:30 hrs off the Dutch coast. Believed to have been shot down during this anti-shipping sortie. The bodies of F/O. Ronald Tapp and Fl/Sgt. James Anderton were washed up on the north German coast and are buried at Sage War Cemetery, west of Bremen. Fl/Sgt. St.James-Smith was sadly not recovered.

Burial details:

Sgt. Alfred William Swinburne Thomas. Houchin British Cemetery, France. Plot 4. Row B. Grave 3. Born in Plymouth , joining the RAF straight from school in 1928. Son of Walter Swinburne Thomas and Edith Thomas, husband of ‘Bobbie’ - Mary Edith Thomas née Robins, of Wigston Fields, Leicestershire, England. Served with 204 and 36 Squadrons in the Middle and Far East. Originally trained as an air gunner he was selected for pilot training and gained his wings in 1936, posted to 18 Squadron he flew Hinds and Harts prior to conversion on the Blenheim in 1938.

No others from this operation, other losses connected with this page:

F/O. Ronald Frederick Tapp. Sage War Cemetery. Grave 7.E.7. Son of William Frank and Rose Tapp, of Worthing, Sussex, husband of Audrey Doris Tapp, of Worthing, Sussex, England.

Fl/Sgt. James Anderton. Sage War Cemetery. Grave 7.C.4. Son of James and Alice Anderton, husband of Evelyn Anderton, of Hornsea, Yorkshire, England.

Fl/Sgt. Ronald Godfrey St. James-Smith. Runnymede Memorial. Panel 37. No further details, are you able to assist?

Researched by Michel Beckers for Aircrew Remembered - September 2015. Photographs from the collection of Michel Beckers.

Acknowledgements: Sources used by us in compiling Archive Reports include: Bill Chorley - 'Bomber Command Losses Vols. 1-9, plus ongoing revisions', Dr. Theo E.W. Boiten and Mr. Roderick J. Mackenzie - 'Nightfighter War Diaries Vols. 1 and 2', Martin Middlebrook and Chris Everitt - 'Bomber Command War Diaries', Commonwealth War Graves Commission, Tom Kracker - Kracker Luftwaffe Archives and Fred Paradie - Paradie Archive (both on this site), Robert Gretzyngier, Wojtek Matusiak, Waldemar Wójcik and Józef Zieliński - 'Ku Czci Połeglyçh Lotnikow 1939-1945', Anna Krzystek, Tadeusz Krzystek - 'Polskie Siły Powietrzne w Wielkiej Brytanii', Norman L.R. Franks 'Fighter Command Losses', Aircrew Remembered Databases and our own archives. We are grateful for the support and encouragement of UK Imperial War Museum, Australian War Memorial, Australian National Archives, UK National Archives and Fold3 and countless dedicated friends and researchers across the world.
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Last Modified: 20 September 2015, 14:04